Today, just in time for New Years, we’re going to wrap up our series on planning strategically for 2016.
So with no further delay, let’s talk about our fourth strategy topic… Execution.
Clearly, you are already executing. It might be a weakness or a strength, but work is getting done.
But whether it’s your best or worst skill, execution is such an important part of your business that it’s always a good time to ask: could you execute work better? Because if you can execute better, you can increase your efficiency, eliminate indirect costs and complete more jobs in less time or with fewer resources… and, we assume, make more profit.
Breaking it Down.
But “Execution” is such a broad category that few tools or tactics will make an impact on more than small parts of it. So to improve execution, it’s normally best to break it down into its various components. Then you can pick out likely targets for improvement. How far you want to break things down depends on what makes sense to you and your business.
At the least, we recommend the separation of production work from back office work. We’ll focus on back office execution later, but for now, we’re going to focus only on production work, or the actual work you do for your clients and the activities that DIRECTLY support you being able to do it.
We’re going to make a bold prediction. If you could break down the average time all your production crew team members spend on customer sites producing, they would average less than 60% of their time. So if labor is your biggest single controllable (not fixed) cost, and 40% of your labor costs are indirect, reducing indirect labor costs immediately becomes your biggest potential productivity gain.
If you’re doing better than this, we’d love to hear how you’re achieving it and what tools are helping you get there!
But whatever your number is, it leaves a big question… How do you reduce indirect labor time and enhance productivity? We have a few suggestions.
Use Go iLawn / Go iPave
Of course we think you should use our software to help you execute. Property maps drawn with Go iLawn / Go iPave can give your crews a clear, visual reference of what work needs to be done on a customer site. Images like these can be printed and sent out with your crews or loaded into the cloud via a free service like Google Drive, Box or Dropbox (**) where your crews can access them via a smartphone.
The Execution benefits are really around three things:
- Your crews will SEE what they need to do and can act decisively. No need to guess or ask questions.
- Your map can color code activity for each crew member or piece of equipment, so they execute with greatest efficiency.
- Your crews won’t be tempted to do extra work “just to be safe” and not have to waste an extra trip coming back. It’s as important to know what not to do as it is to know what to do, and a property map is great for that.
We identify over a dozen technology software option types for your landscaping, asphalt contracting or other service industry company. Three specific tools that can help you understand how you are executing, so you can define strategies for improvement are:
Scheduling Software – Technology solutions like those available from Jobber, Hindsite, and CLIP (**) provide coordination of crews and equipment, perform client communication, enable mass scheduling and do other functions. They eliminate miscommunication and inefficiency associated with manual scheduling, assist with managing around weather events, provide consistency and lead to better customer service
Mobile Time tracking – Technology solutions like those available from AboutTime and ExakTime (**) provide tracking of your workforce via the mobile devices they carry with them. These types of tool enable remote ‘punch-in’ and GPS verification of when workers are on a jobsite.
Fleet Management – Technology solutions like those from Routezilla, Fleetmatics, Workwave, and Ownersite (**) provide tracking of your vehicle fleet, including location and behavior. They enable behavioral information like speed and fuel usage, as well as the ability to see in real-time where a vehicle is.
Production Work includes everything you have to do to complete all the paid jobs you do for clients. We define this to include all time, labor and materials used on site, along with travel time to and from the worksite. We also include the supporting functions you have to take on to bring in supplies, ready equipment, and otherwise enable you to physically do the work. For simplicity, we only include the costs that can be directly attributed to a specific job, so shop work like changing oil in machines, sharpening tools, and other maintenance is left out.
Often, we see production work broken down into very specific tasks to help target areas for efficiency gain. Within production, you could break down your costs by the type of activity your team is doing at any given time. Or you could separate them out by supervisors vs crew members or by their pay levels.
In service industry work, there will always be a large component of direct labor, so understanding what your crews do while executing and measuring how efficient they are will be important tools to help you improve. But this is such a specialized area… companies operate in such different ways… that it is almost impossible to generalize. Instead we recommend two simple processes to help you find what’s a “good” rate for you by standardizing and benchmarking.
To standardize simply means that your crews approach jobs and tasks systematically and execute them in a predictable way. Many of the worst cases of wasted labor we’ve seen resulted from improvising and not planning.
If you’ve been doing this job for a long time, you might have a great feel for rolling up on a jobsite and quickly making a plan of attack. But could you expect a new-foreman to do it as well as you can? If the answer is “no”, then it might be a good idea to try to document the methods you would use, so a new foreman has a blueprint to follow when they encounter a new situation.
A standard approach should draw upon your expertise and should be flexible. but it should provide a guideline that ANYONE could follow and still make a reasonable attempt to do the job in a way that would make you proud.
Another important capability is if you can measure your crews’ productivity against a “Normal” level of production. You can make this as complex or as simple as you want it to be. And you can use our handy Benchmarking Checklist to help you get it done.
One simple strategy is to monitor a crew that is performing “well” and then measure its output figures. Then you can use these productivity numbers as benchmarks. And as you measure future crews, you’ll have a set of objective measurements to compare their performance against.
And of course the important thing here is that you’ll now have an objective means to measure and compare productivity. And whether or not this measurement is perfect, it will provide you with valuable insight on how your crews perform and what can be done to improve them.
If there’s one thing you can do to improve your execution, it’s to reduce indirect time from the workday of your production employees. With technology, standardization, and benchmarking, you’ll have all the tools you need to get started down this path.
Good Luck, The Go iLawn / Go iPave team.
** Go iLawn / Go iPave is not affiliated with any of the other software providers mentioned in this article. Providers are named only to provide examples of types of technologies and services we are discussing. Their mention is in no way intended as an endorsement or recommendation, and readers should consider carefully the appropriateness of any service or vendor for their specific needs, before engaging with them.